Keynote Speaker

12th Community Research & Action in the West Conference January 27-28, 2018

Blanca Ortiz-Torres, Ph.D.; J.D.

Blanca Ortiz-TorresDr. Ortiz-Torres has a Ph.D. in Community Psychology from New York University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Puerto Rico. She has held several research and teaching positions in Puerto Rico and New York. Since 1995 she has been a faculty member in the Psychology Department and the Institute for Psychological Research at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus. Between 2012 al 2014 she worked as the Dean of the College of Social Sciences and prior to that as an Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies. Her research interests include gender, sexuality, community empowerment the development of structural interventions to prevent HIV in various groups, and public policy. She also does research in areas such as community activation, citizen participation and development of community capital. She has conducted research to evaluate HIV-related preventive interventions in New York, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Haiti. She has been invited to teach courses in México, Uruguay, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic. Dr. Ortiz-Torres has coordinated Proyecto Atlantea, an academic exchange program between University of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. She has been a board member of several community-based organizations and was the President of the Puerto Rican Psychological Association (1983) and the Secretary for Central America and the Caribbean of the Interamerican Psychological Society. 

On Being a Community Psychologist in a Colony: A 500-year-old Decolonial Struggle 

Blanca Ortiz-Torres, Ph.D.; J.D. 

Psychology Department and the Institute for Psychological Research at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus

On June 19, 2017 for the thirty-fifth time, the United Nations declared Puerto Rico a colony of the United States and stated its right to self-determination and independence. Therefore, the struggle for decolonization is always present and central in all dimensions of our lives. Interestingly, it is in this context that the first community psychology program in Latin America and the Caribbean was founded, which has become a model for the development of other programs in the region. Is it possible to construct and develop a decolonial community psychology in a colonial context that negates self-determination and inequality? Since its inception, community psychologists in Puerto Rico have struggled with the contradictions that emerge from the close political relationship Puerto Rico has with the United States and the historical, organic and cultural relationship we have with Latin America and the Caribbean. I construct my interactions with the diverse community psychologies around the world as the most fundamental decolonial and decolonizing experiences I have had. I will share some lessons learned in this exchange process, such as the need to conceptualize and live decoloniality as a fundamental pedagogical practice in which our students recognize themselves as social change agents, which certainly implies a personal process of transformation. I have also learned about the importance of conceptualizing and implementing interventions as humanizing, decolonial acts. Finally, I will pose my thoughts regarding the fact thatfrom a decolonial standpoint, there may not be a single way to perceive and appreciate what really matters in our struggle against colonialism and coloniality.